How to Revive a Dying Echeveria

Why is my echeveria dying?

Echeveria are succulents native to dry, desert environments and are adapted to full sun, infrequent rainfall, warm temperatures and grow in gritty well draining soil.

The reason for a dying echeveria is usually because of overwatering and poor drainage which results in the leaves turning yellow, mushy and dying back. Drooping leaves and tall stems indicate the echeveria has insufficient sunlight.

Here is a table summarising the most common problems with echeveria…

Symptoms of Dying Echeveria:Reasons for Dying Echeveria:
Echeveria Losing its Leaves:Lower leaves drop naturally as the plant matures. Sun burnt Leaves shrivel and drop off. Overwatering and poor drainage also results in echeveria losing leaves.
Echeveria Growing Tall with Drooping Leaves:Not enough sunlight causes stretching. The leaves droop due to inadequate sunlight for photosynthesis.
Echeveria Leaves Turning Yellow:Overwatering and poor drainage causing root rot. Cold temperatures and high humidity are often contributing factors.
Echeveria Turning Purple:Some species of echeveria turn purple as the plant matures. Leaves can turn purple due to excessively high temperatures, or sunlight, cold temperatures and due to drought stress.

Keep reading for how implement the solutions to save your dying echeveria…

Echeveria Losing its Leaves (Lower Leaves Dying From The Bottom Up)

Echeveria always lose their lower leaves as the plant matures. The lower leaves most often dry out, before dropping off and dying.

This does not indicate that there is anything wrong with your echeveria as it is a natural part of the plants life cycle.

The echeveria redirects its resources from the lower leaves to supporting and growing the new leaves as they are closer to a source of light.

The moisture and nutrients of the dying leaf is reabsorbed into the plant to preserve its resources.

As the leaves are reabsorbing the available nutrients in the leaf, do not try to remove it too early.

You can remove the leaves if they come away easily with some gentle manipulation but if the plant is resisting, do not try to pull the dying leaf off as this can cause unnecessary damage and you are denying the plant the opportunity to reabsorb useful resources.

Echeveria Leaves Dying Due to Sun Burn

Echeveria grow best in full sun otherwise they tend to grow leggy and the leaves droop. However if you have moved the echeveria from an area of shade to an area of intense full sun without giving the echeveria a chance to adjust to the conditions then the echeveria’s leaves can burn.

The leaves may scorch yellow brown or even turn purple depending on the level of sun burn. Once the leaves have been scorched they do not recover again.

As the leaves are scorched they can no longer photosynthesize and therefore they cost the echeveria resources without contributing anything in return.

The echeveria then reabsorbs the available nutrients from the burnt leaves which causes them to die back.

The plant should still survive as long as it has not been scorched entirely and you do not need to specially do anything for the plant to revive other then ensure you take good care of them i terms of watering and sunlight etc.

It is imperative to expose the echeveria to more light gradually to give the plant time to acclimatize rather then move them straight into full sun.

I personally have had success with moving succulents into full sun by moving the plant into 20 minutes or so more each day over the course of about 2 weeks.

The increased light intensity prevents the echeveria from turning leggy and stimulates the production of farina which is a natural white powdery substance that acts as a sun screen to prevent burning.

After the plant has adjusted to more sun, then it does not get burnt and maintains a nice compact shape.

Leaves can also drop off due to overwatering and poor drainage. Scroll down to the section about leaves turning yellow for how to revive the echeveria as the process is the same.

Echeveria Growing a Tall Stem and Drooping

Echeveria are succulents that have adapted to growing in open areas with full sun from Texas to Argentina.

Indoors the echeveria has fewer hours of light and if you do not live in a sunny climate, in a southerly latitude then the light is not at the same intensity as it would be in its native environment.

Even if the echeveria is on a window sill it may not have enough light. This results in the echeveria elitotating which causes it to grow tall and leggy, as it stretches in search of more light.

The leaves also droop in appearance if they do not have enough light as they grow weak.

Echeverias need full sun to stay a compact size. In more northerly latitudes further away from the equator the sun is often not intense enough for the echeveria’s requirements even if they are located in a South facing window.

The echeveria may also just have grown leggy as the plant matured as the lower leaves have died back.

How to Revive a Tall Echeveria with Drooping Leaves

Once the echeveria has grown tall and the leaves have drooped, the plant cannot recover its original appearance.

The drooping leaves do not stand up again, even if the plant has been moved into full sun.

However the plant can still be saved with some tactical pruning. The process of pruning is best explained visually, so watch this excellent YouTube video for how to save a leggy, stretched echeveria with drooping leaves…

Once you have trimmed and propagated your echeveria locate your plants in full sun preferably on a South facing window.

However it is worth noting that some window sills have a very cold micro climate at night, which is unfavorable for the growth of the echeveria.

If you live in a northerly latitude with fewer hours of day light (particularly in Winter) then I recommend buying a grow light (available in garden centers or online) to supplement the amount of light to prevent your echeveria from developing a leggy appearance again.

Echeveria Leaves Turning Yellow and Dying

  • Symptoms: Leaves turn yellow or even translucent with a mushy texture. There may also be some brown or black discoloration of the stem which may also feel mushy.
  • Causes: Overwatering and slow draining soils. Cold temperatures and high humidity are often contributing factors.

Echeverias are a type of succulent that is specially adapted to tolerating environments with low rainfall, well draining gritty soil, high temperatures, low humidity and full sun.

Therefore the echeveria is prone to problems associated with overwatering and does not tolerate slow draining soils that retains too much moisture around the roots.

Echeverias should only be watered when their potting soil is completely dry all the way to the bottom. If you are watering you echeveria more often then once a week, then this is the reason the leaves are turning yellow and dying.

The soil in the echeveria’s native environment is typically quite sandy or stony which drains very quickly and does not hold onto moisture.

Regular potting soil retains too much moisture for the echeveria’s roots to tolerate and usually results in root rot.

An overwatered echeveria has yellow, or translucent leaves with a mushy texture. The stems may also feel soft and rotten. The leaves can also fall off due to overwatering.

High humidity climates can also drastically reduce evaporation from the soil and transpiration from leaves. which can promote the conditions that cause rotting yellow leaves.

Cold temperatures in the Winter combined with fewer hours of sunlight can reduce the rate of growth of the echeveria which reduces the demand for moisture.

If the roots are up taking less water then the soil can stay moist for too long and cause rot.

How to Revive an Overwatered Echeveria with Yellow Leaves

To save an overwatered echeveria it is essential to replicate some of the conditions of its native environment by watering less often, planting it in well draining gritty potting soil and locating the plant in full sun. It is often necessary to propagate the echeveria from any remaining healthy leaves.

  • Wait until the the soil has dried out completely before watering thoroughly. Echeveria are succulents that store water in their leaves, so they can can tolerate dry soil periodically without any problems. Overwatering is always a more serious threat to echeveria then underwatering due to it susceptibility to rot.

To establish when the soil is dry and therefore when it is appropriate to water your echeveria without risking rot you can:

  1. Feel the soil at the bottom of the pot through the drainage hole in the base to detect whether its is dry or still damp.
  2. Push a wooden stick or skewer in the soil to see if it is dry or still damp.
  3. Periodically judge the weight of the echeveria’s pot by picking it up after watering as it should become much lighter as the soil dries.
Using a wooden skewer is a good way to test whether the echeveria's soil is still moist or dry.
Using a wooden skewer is a good way to test whether the echeveria’s soil is still moist or dry.
  • Reduce the rate of watering in Winter as echeveria are typically dormant due to fewer hours of sunlight. Therefore the echeveria’s demand for moisture is much lower compared to active growth in the Spring and Summer. The lower demand means less moisture is drawn up through the roots, so the soil stays damp for longer and promotes the conditions for rot.
  • Take the echeveria out of the pot and inspect the roots by shaking the soil off any running the roots under a tap (facet) to see the state of the roots. Healthy roots are white, or perhaps light brown (slightly discolored from the soil) and feel firm whereas overwatered roots appear brown, black with a soft mushy texture and bad smell. Use a sterile pair of pruners to sip away any diseased, rotting root back to the base or back to the nearest healthy growth. Wipe the blades with a cloth soaked in disinfectant (hand gel is good to use for this) to kill any fungal pathogens and prevent them spreading to healthy growth.
  • Gently prise off any yellow mushy leaves. This prevents the rot from spreading to other parts of the echeveria. Use a pruning tool and cut the individual rotting leaf off if necessary.
  • Replant the echeveria in special succulent and cacti soil. Succulent and cacti soil has a porous open structure (replicating the soil in the echeveria’s native environment) to allow excess water to drain efficiently to avoid problems with rot. Discard the old soil as it can harbor the fungal pathogens that caused the rot.
Succulent and cacti soil is gritty and well draining which prevents echeveria roots rotting.
Succulent and cacti soil is gritty and well draining which prevents echeveria roots rotting.
  • Repot the echeveria in a clay or terracotta pot, as these material are porous which allows the soil to dry evenly. This helps to mitigate the risk of root rot. You can grow echeveria in plastic or ceramic pots, but these are impermeable, so they retain more moisture and promote the conditions for rot.
  • Keep the echeveria in a relatively warm room and preferably not the bathroom or kitchen as these rooms can have higher levels of humidity which is unfavorable for the echeveria. Window sills can get very cold at night in Winter which reduces the rate of evaporation form the soil and can may even be colder then the echeveria native habitat.

Once you have addressed the problems that have caused the leaves to turn yellow and rot and removed any diseased roots and leaves then the echeveria can recover as long as it is watered more infrequently, and located in bright sunlight.

However if the rot begins to spread and the plant is dying, then I recommend watching the YouTube video for a tutorial on the different methods of propagating succulents to propagate the echeveria from any healthy leaves that are remaining:

Echeveria Leaves Turning Purple

Echeveria leaves turning purple due to high temperatures.
Echeveria leaves turning purple due to high temperatures.
  • Symptoms: Leaves turning progressively more purple.
  • Causes: Excess heat, light and drought stress.

Echeveria leaves turn purple if they are experiencing stress from excess heat, underwatering, excess sunlight or cold temperatures.

Some echeveria varieties turn purple as they mature and this a naturally part of their coloration. The colour purple is due to the release of a pigment called anthocyanin which is an antioxidant that protects against stress.

This sometimes happens to echeveria plants if they have been moved from a relatively shaded area to one of harsh direct afternoon sunlight.

If the echeveria is in a window sill with afternoon sun, then the combination of high temperatures from absorbing the heat all day and the unrelenting sunlight can cause the leaves to turn purple to prevent the leaves from burning.

The intense heat and light can also cause the soil to dry out too quickly for the roots to draw up moisture which adds to the stress that turns the leaves purple.

If non of these scenarios apply to your echeveria, it is worth checking whether the temperature at night to see if it is lower then 50°F (10°C) on a cold draughty window sill as this may be responsible for the leaves turning purple.

How to Save an Echeveria that is Turning Purple

The echeveria usually recovers if it has turned purple as it adjusts to its conditions. However you may want to move the echeveria to a cooler spot and gradually expose it to more light if it has turned purple on a hot and sunny window sill.

Check the weight of the pot to see if the soil is dry (the pot should be much lighter when dry) and see if you need to adjust your watering schedule and always water generously, so that excess water trickles from the base of the pot.

This style of water ensures that the water has effectively infiltrated the potting soil to reach the roots. The goal with watering is that the soil is evenly moist afterwards, so do not water too lightly as this can cause drought stress.

After the stress has decreased then the concentration of the anthocyanin pigment decreases and the echeveria returns to its original colour.

(Read my article, why is my succulent dying).

Key Takeaways:

  • Echeverias are particularly susceptible to root rot from overwatering or poor drainage. Root rot causes the echeveria’s leaves to turn yellow and soft, resulting in individual leaves rotting and dying.
  • Echeveria leaves die at the base of the plant and drop off as the plant matures. This is a natural part of the echeveria’s life cycle and does not mean the plant itself is dying.
  • Echeveria plants grow excessively tall and stretched if they do not have enough light. Echeveria need to grow in full sunlight to maintain a compact shape. The leaves also droop downwards if they are in too much shade.
  • Purple echeveria leaves indicate the plant is stressed due to excess heat, sunlight, cold temperatures or is suffering due to drought stress.
  • To revive a dying echeveria, emulate some of the conditions of its natural habitat with full sunlight, warm temperatures, plant it in well draining soil and only water echeveria when the top inch of soil has dried out completely. Cut away any rotting roots or leaves to prevent the rot from spreading to healthy parts of the plant.
  • It may necessary to propagate any healthy remaining leaves or cuttings to revive the dying echeveria.

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